Buying a Cowper Cresent home in 1961

Norris & Duval’s 1961 “Ad” in the Enfield Gazette & Observer stipulated that applicants for houses in the Second Phase of the Leach Development at Bengeo must be made by Telephone at 9.00 am, on the morning of the opening day for applications for these most desirable residences (the post war housing shortage still endured); and people arriving at their Office would be turned away. I drove up to look with admiration at the already completed First Phase, which included Woodhall Close and the Avenue, as far as the present day shops, where the Leach Site Office stood.

From the advertised details, I was interested in the Chalet Bungalow type houses but I was unsure whether I should be looking at those at the Shops end of the Avenue , or the “Dutch” type at what was to become the entrance to Cowper Crescent. Nevertheless, I stood by the telephone on the designated day, and at precisely 9 o’clock I dialed for the first time but the line was continuously engaged. When at midday, I at last got through, I was told that all the houses were sold; and that people had queued outside all night, in such numbers, that they were forced to let them into the Office when it opened. My name was taken and put on a reserve list, in case any of the successful applicants subsequently dropped out. In the event, one property did become available and I was offered a house of the style we wanted. It was a corner plot with a chunk of extra land for an extra £75. And it was the very one we had chosen from the plans as being the most desirable.

Later, we watched as foundations laid along Cowper Crescent, slowly grew into recognisable dwellings and, just before Christmas, we moved in to number 49. From the road, two narrow strips of concrete led up to the house and either side was a soggy mass of mud. The Removals Van, reversed with only one wheel on the driveway. The other sank deep into the mud and had to be towed out when it had unloaded. These conditions continued well into the new year; but gradually residents got their properties in order, the pavement and roadway was cleaned up and gardens arose on the chaotic detritus of a building site. It was useful having the Leach Office manned by a Foreman who could deal with problems as they arose; and deal with them on an informal basis. Our Boiler had a fault and the resident plumber came along and fixed it by exchanging a faulty part with one taken from the boiler in an as yet unoccupied house further up the road!

Brian Laming